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April 16, 2003

The Aesthetics of Evil John

The Aesthetics of Evil

John Ray of Dissecting Leftism wonders why being a Nazi is considered to be so much worse than being a Communist. After all, both tend to promote sadistic butchers to positions of power, and both are responsible for the deaths of millions.

I think part of the reason for the American* attitude towards Nazism is the fact that for many Americans, World War II was much more up front and personal than the Cold War. Familiarity breeds contempt, as it were. But I think another reason is that when it comes down to it, Nazis are cooler and more attractive to the American persona, and so must be rejected all the more vehemently, unless one happens to be easily swayed gutter trash, of course, in which case one fervently embraces it.

If you doubt me, picture an SS officer. Now picture say, a Russian NKVD officer.

Which one sprang to mind more quickly? More importantly, which one is better looking?

Out of the big Three, Stalin, Hitler and Mao, only Hitler was an artist, and his aesthetic vision permeated the Third Reich. Communist Russia and China lasted long enough to develop a sense of pomp, but the way they came to power wasn't very conducive to aesthetics. It's hard to develop a fashion philosophy when you're busy fighting the Whites or the Kuomintang.

When it comes right down to it, Nazis are more appealing because they're prettier. Say you're in the movie business, and you have a script where the villain can be either a commie or a Nazi. Which image conveys more information the moment it appears on screen, without any extra action or dialog? The Nazi does, because when comes to information, the more beautiful a thing is, the more complex a thing is, and the more complex a thing is, the larger its carrying capacity for information is. A sonnet gives the reader more information than a haiku does. As far as media is concerned, this is a self-reinforcing cycle, in that the more often Nazis are used as villains, the more effective that image becomes as a symbolic shorthand for evil, so the more often it is used.

Communists aren't as iconic as Nazis, so the reaction to Communists or Communism tends to be more along the lines of "how gauche." rather than "how evil!"

* I won't speak for Europe; as far as I can tell the only contest between the two philosophies on that continent is not which is the more unattractive, but which is the more appealing.

Addendum: Saddam's aesthetics, such as they were.

Posted by Bigwig at April 16, 2003 01:24 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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